Union voices displeasure with BOE’s hiring practices

NAUGATUCK — Union members expressed their disappointment with the way the Board of Education has handled recent position openings during last week’s board meeting.

Sarah Poynton, president of American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees Local 1303-50, said that people are coming to the district for interviews, told they have a job, but getting turned down by the board.

Although this is not a contractual violation, the board’s approval of new workers is supposed to be a formality, Poynton said.

She said there was a breakdown in communications between the board and the union.

“They’re detached from what we do,” she said.

Although she said there were other instances, Poynton specifically referenced a decision last month by the board to take no action on hiring cafeteria workers.

Board Chair Kathleen Donovan said the board is still looking for additional information from Sodexo, the contractor that manages the school’s cafeterias, before rendering a decision.

“Once they set up the positions, we have the right to hire or not,” board member James Scully said.

Poynton argued that the board should be aware of positions before they come up for approval, at which point the contract has already been negotiated and candidate told they will be hired.

“Right now things are so backwards with this Board of Education. If they don’t want to fill a vacancy, they shouldn’t allow administrators to post a vacancy,” Poynton said.

Representatives from Sodexo presented a plan to add several permanent, new positions to the cafeteria program at February’s school board meeting.

Kate O’Donnell, local site manager for Sodexo, said at the February meeting that they planned to add three new positions at the high school, one of which would qualify for benefits. Sodexo also hopes to add another 4.5-hour-per-day employee to Prospect Street School. Currently, cafeteria employees are working more hours than they are scheduled for, she said.

At the time, Scully questioned the necessity of adding new positions to the cafeteria staff. In the past, the high school had more students and less positions, he said.

O’Donnell said preparing today’s meals are more work-intensive than they were in the past, which is why they need more workers.

Secretary of the board David Heller concluded that debate by suggesting the Sodexo representatives present their requests to the Board of Finance at their next meeting, which has not yet taken place.

Poynton and her union are upset with the delay, which has left prospective employees hanging for over a month. She said the long-term, non-union substitutes are taking union positions.

Scully said the board denied a lot of positions last year because they simply didn’t have financing to put full-time positions in.
“It’s nothing new this year,” he said.

The board is looking to cut anywhere they can, he said.

Poynton said she understood that the board is facing difficult times, but deplored its lack of transparency.

She said her union, which includes secretaries, paraprofessionals, cafeteria workers, custodians and transportation aides, is willing to help find savings and cut costs, if only the board would listen to them.

“Instead of working with us, they prefer to come after us,” she said.